You're familiar with the pain of a migraine-the intense throbbing concentrated mostly on one side your head and often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or hypersensitivity to light and sound. You know that these recurring headaches can last a while and that a number of factors might trigger an attack. Here's what you might not know about migraines:
Obesity may raise your risk. Researchers at Johns Hopkins recently analyzed data from nearly 4,000 adults and found the odds of episodic migraines (the kind that occurs 14 days or fewer a month) were more than 80% higher in the obese participants. The risk was greatest among women, whites and those under age 50. What might cause the link between obesity and migraines is still up for debate, but experts do know other factors-such as family history and gender, for example-make you more prone to having migraines.
Lightning could spark one. Changes in weather or barometric pressure are known migraine triggers, but results from a study of patients suggest lightning may affect the onset of headaches. Researchers found that people were nearly 30% more likely to experience a migraine on days when lightning struck within 25 miles of their home; they speculate that electromagnetic waves, an increase in ozone or fungal spores caused by the lightning could be the culprits. Another surprising time that could set off a headache? At the start of a weekend or first day of vacation. To help determine your triggers, keep a headache diary: note when your headaches start, how long they last and what, if anything, provides relief.
Poor treatment could lead to more frequent headaches. That's according to research recently presented at a meeting of the International Headache Congress. Scientists found that people with episodic migraines who received inadequate treatment for acute headaches were more likely to develop chronic migraines, defined as 15 or more migraine days a month. Migraines can't be cured, but you can prevent attacks or relieve symptoms with the right mix of meds, behavioral changes and even alternative remedies. Work with your doctor to determine your treatment plan.